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Unreconciled Inconsistencies: A Critical Review of the Concept of Social Justice in 3 National Nursing Documents

Bekemeier, Betty MSN, MPH, RN; Butterfield, Patricia PhD, RN, FAAN

Original Article

A critical review of the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements, Nursing's Social Policy Statement, and Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice provides evidence that these documents present an inconsistent, ambiguous, and superficial conceptualization of social justice, and do not offer an adequate framework for nurses to address underlying issues that affect health outcomes. Despite expansive references to the historic role of nursing in social reform, the documents implicitly reinforce nursing practice directed toward the individual nurse-patient relationship and give short shrift to nursing models that endorse broad systems change intended to improve health.

Turning Point National Program Office, University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Seattle (Ms Bekemeier); and the University of Washington School of Nursing, Seattle (Dr Butterfield). Ms Bekemeier is also a doctoral student at the University of Washington School of Nursing, Seattle.

Corresponding author: Betty Bekemeier, MSN, MPH, RN, University of Washington, Box 358852, Seattle, WA 98195 (e-mail:

The authors thank Stephen Padgett, Alison Eisinger, Denise Drevdahl, and Carole Schroeder for their guidance during preparation of this article.

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.